Iran is the second biggest economy in the Middle East and North Africa, and one of the most populous. It is classed as a middle-income country. Iran’s estimated gross domestic product (GDP) is 366 billion USD (in 2013-14). The country’s economy boasts a huge hydrocarbon sector, in addition to agriculture and services sectors. There is conspicuous state involvement in manufacturing and financial services.
Petroleum and natural gas are the most vital of Iran’s vast natural resources. Before the introduction of new sanctions against Iran in 2014, oil accounted for 80% of export revenues. The industrial sector, which includes mining, manufacturing and construction, contributes roughly two-fifths to the GDP and employs around a third of the labor force. The service sector is the largest contributor to GDP and employs nearly half of the work force.
Roughly a tenth of Iranian land is arable land, and agriculture contributes slightly over 11% to GDP and employs around a third of the Iranian labor force. Other important industries in Iran are textiles, sugar refining, food processing, and production of cement, building materials, iron, steel, and machinery. Also important to the economy are the country’s carpet weaving, ceramics, silk, and jewelry industries.
Apart from petroleum, the country’s exports include, but are not limited to, chemical and petrochemical goods, foods such as fruit and nuts, and carpets and rugs; its principal imports include, but are not limited to, industrial raw materials, capital goods, foodstuffs, and military supplies.
As an expat planning to work in Iran, you’ll need a business (entry) visa, and it's worth applying for this a good eight weeks prior to travel to accommodate any unexpected delays. You'll also need a letter from your employment sponsor in Iran. Visas have to be approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Tehran. Assuming your application is approved, the MFA will send an authorization number to the Iranian consulate, which will require from you a completed application form, passport photos (females will need to wear a headscarf in their visa application photographs), and the appropriate fee, before issuing you with a visa. It's also worth noting that British, Canadian and US nationals are banned from independent travel through Iran as of March 2014.
To obtain your visa, you can either use the Iranian Embassy’s visa services or, as many foreigners do, use a recognized visa agency such as iranianvisa.com, which will charge you to get you an authorization number. The process is relatively simple: fill out an electronic form with details of your business in Iran and information such as where you’d like to collect your visa, attach digital copies of your passport and photograph, and give this and the letter from your employment sponsor to the visa agency, which will send the lot to Tehran. Once your authorization number has been sent to the agency, they will forward it to you and your nominated Iranian embassy or consulate. You will then need to be interviewed by the consulate. Usually, and assuming nothing goes wrong, you’ll be issued with a visa stamp in your passport after your interview. Israelis, or anyone with an Israeli stamp in their passport, will not be given a visa.
Iran’s tax year begins on March 21 and ends on March 20 of the following year. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs levies and collects taxes from Iranian citizens. Taxable income comes from a set range of categories that are each taxed separately: salaries (public sector employees are subject to a 10% tax, for workers in other sectors, income tax is up to 35%); income from professionals, trades and miscellaneous sources; incidental or windfall earnings; real estate income; and income derived from agriculture.
Expats working in Iran must also pay income tax based on their salary. However, according to the British Iranian Chamber of Commerce, the Iranian government “assumes” a certain salary for foreign workers that is based on their seniority and their country of origin. The “assumed” monthly minimum salaries for European employees range from 2,500 USD for the unskilled to 7, 000 USD for European senior directors. The income of expatriates is taxed at 35%. Expats are not permitted to leave the country unless they provide evidence that they have paid their taxes.